Back in 1986 Ubisoft published their very first action adventure video game titled Zombi – borrowing heavily from George A. Romero’s amazing zombie cult classic Dawn of the Dead. Programmed by Yannick Cadin and S.L. Coemelck, with graphics by Patrick Daher it was one of the very first zombie video games available for the mass market, and still holds up today!
Modern gamers obsessed with the frantic pace of Left for Dead or Call of Duty may have a hard time appreciating the quiet tension of this classic point-and-click adventure. But it was so popular at the time that Zombi was actually re-released four years later for a number of common systems including the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, and MS-DOS.
As we’ve already mentioned, the video game was obviously inspired by Dawn of the Dead, known in Italy as Zombi: L’alba dei Morti Viventiin and in France as Zombie: Le Crépuscule des Morts Vivants. Considering the French origins of Ubisoft (at that time known as Ubi Soft Entertainment S.A.) it’s interesting that the Guillemot family chose the international title provided by producer Dario Argento, who oversaw the European release of the film itself.
Regardless of the title, it’s surprising that a video game could borrow so heavily from an established franchise without encountering a legal challenge from the original creators.
However, Ubisoft went on to become one of the world’s largest and most successful video game publishers, while their very first zombie game eventually earned a cult status among both gamers and zombie fans alike. The original description from the packaging describes the horror, thrills, and excitement awaiting those early gamers back in 1986.
The nightmare has just begun.
For mysterious reasons, dead people came back to life to feed themselves on the flesh of human being [sic]. The Earth is inhabited by millions of Zombies, who are spreading terror, and by gangs of hooligans, who are ready to do anything to survive.
Yet four people didn’t lose hope and decided to run away for new horizons.
When there is no more room left in hell…
…dead people come back to Earth.
The game begins when four characters land atop a shopping mall via helicopter. From that point forward you basically inspect the abandoned shops, scavenge for supplies, and attempt to survive. Fans of the original film will recognize a number of familiar situations; stockpiling dead zombies in a freezer, blocking the entrances using trucks, dangerous biker thugs, and finally a wonderful rooftop escape. Thankfully, even the film’s humor isn’t lost in translation!
Despite such a grim and desperate situation, the game designers included a number of clever nods to the original movie and even named the main characters after themselves. There are also funny posters and advertisements on nearly every level featured throughout the game.
Without actually playing Zombi, it’s hard to describe the full experience. But we’ve included a number of images below including screenshots, contemporary reviews, and more. Of course, the game itself is available online via various emulator sites. But download at your own risk!
In the meantime, you can read this article from Nintendojo in which authors Katharine Byrne and Michael Contino compare and contrast Zombi with its 2012 spiritual successor ZombiU. Or simply visit YouTube for a number of great longplays featuring the original Amstrad CPC or walkthroughs for the many re-releases that followed, including a full-color Amiga version.
You can read about this classic zombie video game, view screenshots, and watch YouTube videos to your heart’s content – but there’s really nothing like playing Zombi for yourself. So please go ahead and check it out sometime, because what you don’t know can eat you!